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On the heels of Thanksgiving, NBA fans have one more reason to give thanks: Christmas came early this year.
After meeting for over 15 hours on Friday, the NBA and the National Basketball Players’ Association reached a tentative agreement in the wee hours of Saturday morning to finally end the lockout after 149 days.
Excluding any unforeseen hiccups when NBA Commissioner David Stern and NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter bring the proposal before their respective sides, the season should be set to begin on Christmas Day.
Unless the shortened season rearranges the schedule, the 66-game season will kick off with the Boston Celtics squaring off against the New York Knicks. That game will be followed by the Miami Heat visiting the Dallas Mavericks in a Finals rematch. Christmas will then be capped off by the Chicago Bulls going into the Staples Center to take on the Los Angeles Lakers.
The early Christmas present is all the more gratifying for NBA fans because of how suddenly and unexpectedly the agreement was reached. On Nov. 14, the players rejected the owners’ “ultimatum.” The NBPA filed a disclaimer of interest, dissolving the union and effectively ending the collective bargaining period in order to take the disagreement to court.
The players filed an antitrust suit against the league requesting $6 billion in damages, and the league countered with its own case to attempt to nullify the union’s disclaimer. Stern characterized the developments as bringing the NBA into a “nuclear winter.”
The owners must still vote on the new CBA, and the union must reform to ratify the agreement, so there are still plenty of steps left before Saturday’s tentative settlement becomes a done deal. Still, the joint press conference to announce that the 2011-12 NBA season will start on Dec. 25 is the first sign of hope for NBA fans in almost five months.
If everything goes ahead as planned, that dreaded NBA “nuclear winter” should become a Winter Wonderland on Christmas Day.